Category Archives: Around the Majors

Huh?

Lee to the Phillies - a punch in the face to the Yanks

 

The New York Yankees wanted Cliff Lee.  They had history, tradition, fan base, allure, and a powerhouse roster on their side.  They also had money, more money than any other team could offer.  Surely he would choose them.

The Texas Rangers wanted Cliff Lee.  They had new owners (including a hall-of-fame pitcher), a young, competitive team, passionate fans, and proximity to Lee’s home.  They also had familiarity on their side, since he played for them last season.  Oh – Texas also had a lot of money due to new ownership and a new TV contract.  Surely he would choose them.

Then came rumours of a mystery team, likely the Anaheim Angels.  Not only could they offer a ton of money, but they almost had to sign Lee to erase years of offseason failure.  Over the past five or six years they had set their sights on – and failed to acquire – Paul Konerko, Alfonso Soriano, Johan Santana, Roy Halladay, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, and this year Carl Crawford.  Surely Lee would sign with them.

Lee wanted a seven-year contract.  Very few teams could offer that.  The Yankees did.

So Cliff Lee signed a five-year deal with the Phillies.

Huh?

It makes no sense.

The Phillies had him – but traded him away.  He didn’t want to go, but they got rid of him anyways. 

The Yankees and Rangers offered him more money and more guaranteed years.

And yet…it makes the most sense in the world.

He loved Philadelphia.  And he loves winning. 

By re-joining the Phillies he returns to the city he enjoyed more than any other during his big league career.  He loved the fans, the park, and felt comfortable.  He also joins the team that has to be considered a World Series favourite, or at the very least the NL favourite.

Think about that rotation – Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, Hamels?  Scary.

So it’s back to the drawing board for the Yanks, who now have to hope that an aging Andy Pettitte decides to come back and join an aging Jeter, aging A-Rod, aging Rivera, aging Posada, and broken down Burnett. 

Fans are rejoicing.

************************

Two rapid thoughts before signing off:

1. Yes Lee turned down the Yankees.  Yes he didn’t choose the highest bidder.  But can we please stop anointing him a saint?  It’s not like he turned down $148-million to become a bank teller.  He turned down $148-million for $100-million (maybe more).  As I read last night on Twitter (can’t remember who wrote it): it’s much easier to leave $50-million on the table when you have $100-million.

2. My free-agent predictions have been pathetic, just as bad as my playoff predictions.  Aside from the obvious (Jeter and Rivera back with NY), I have only nailed Victor Martinez to Detroit.  I was wrong on Jayson Werth (I said Boston), Carl Crawford (Anaheim), Lee (NY), Adam Dunn (A’s), Paul Konerko (Rangers), and Jorge De La Rosa (Rangers).

A Turd That Won’t Flush

The free agency period has begun. 

The arbitration deadline has come and gone. 

Everybody who is in any way interested in the great game of baseball now waits with great anticipation to see where the big names will fall. 

Jeter.  Rivera.  Werth.  Crawford.  Lee.  Upton.  Greinke.  Ramirez.  The list is long.

Some bigger names have already signed deals (Joaquin Benoit, Aubrey Huff), but did you know that 73 different players have signed free agent contracts thus far?  Most are of the minor league variety, but many names are familiar:

– Jay Gibbons (to the LA Dodgers)

– Justin Miller (to Seattle)

– Dallas McPherson (to the White Sox)

– Josh Barfield (to Philadelphia)

But one name in particular stood out.  I was so shocked and horrified to see his name that I practically pulled a Mama Cass and choked on my sandwich. 

My friends, on November 11th, the one-and-only Kevin Cash signed a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers.

Kevin Cash has been, and continues to be, a sore spot with me.  He was once the crown jewel of Toronto’s farm system, known as our “Catcher of the Future”.  But he was so bad, so terribly pathetic at the plate, that the future came to an end in three years.

Since that time I like to think of Cash as a turd that won’t flush.  He is a piece of crap that just won’t go away, coming so close, so many times to being out of baseball for good (full season in triple-A in 2006, a brief retirement in 2009), but popping back up shortly thereafter.

How he continues to find teams is beyond me, a miracle of modern day society.  His career stats are vomit inducing: .183 average, .248 OBP, .278 SLG, .526 OPS, 12 HR, 58 RBI, 195 K’s, in 641 AB over 8 seasons.

He has a career WAR of -3.6, meaning that a minor league player would have provided a team with almost four more wins than Cash. 

Yet somehow Kevin Cash is still a sought after commodity.  It would be less of a slap in the face if it was the Royals or Pirates who kept signing him.  But no – he has played for Tampa Bay, Boston (where he actually won a World Series in ’07), New York, and Houston.  Now it is the defending AL Champion Texas Rangers who bring him off the scrap heap.  Come on!

Maybe he wowed Texas with his new-found versatility – he pitched an inning for Houston last year (3 H, 1 ER). 

Maybe it was because he had the second greatest stretch of his career playing in the state of Texas (20 games, .204 average, .605 OPS, 2 HR).

Whatever the case may be, please MLB – stop recycliing Kevin Cash! 

And while you’re at it, do the same with Eric Hinske.

Yours truly,

500 Level Fan

ps. I don’t like Kevin Cash.

Short and Sweet – Way to Go Doc!

First, let me clarify – I am over Roy Halladay.  I have moved on.

But in the past I pulled for Tony Fernandez in Cleveland, cheered for Fred  McGriff in Atlanta, and felt happy for Shawn Green in LA and Carlos Delgado in NY.

So I can easily admit that I felt some pride today when it was announced that Halladay had won the 2010 NL Cy Young Award. 

He not only won it – he won it unanimously, becoming the 13th NL pitcher to accomplish that feat.  He also became the 5th pitcher in MLB history to win the award in both leagues.

The stats speak for themselves: 21 – 10. 2.44 ERA, 9 CG, 4 shutouts, and 250.2 IP.  Plus one regular season perfect game and one playoff no-hitter.

Not bad.  Not bad at all.

So congrats Roy.  But leave the World Series to us…

Eternal Questions for the Modern Mind

Derek Jeter, the "best fielding SS" in the AL

We all know these ones:

If a tree falls in the middle of a forest with nobody around, does it make a sound?

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Why does the ugliest guy at the bar always end up with the hottest girl?

How do the Pittsburgh Pirates still suck?

Well, here’s another:

If Derek Jeter didn’t play in New York, would he ever win a Gold Glove?

Seriously.

The AL Gold Glove recipients were announced yesterday, and Derek Jeter won for AL SS, for the fifth time!

Looking at basic fielding statistics, the choice appears sound.  Of the 16 AL shortstops who played at least 500 innings at the position, here are Jeter’s rankings:

Fewest Errors Commited – 1st (6)

Fielding % – 1st (.989)

Back in the day, that would be enough.

But you would think that in an age where advanced statistics are readily available, gold glove voters would be more intelligent.

Look at where he ranks in some more advanced statistical categories:

Total Zone Fielding Runs – 16th (dead last), at -10 (meaning he was 10 runs worse than an average SS)

BIS +/- – 15th (second last), at -13 (meaning he was 13 runs worse than an average SS)

Range Factor – 15th (second last)

Even looking at standard stats in a different way tells you a new story.  Jeter had the 7th most chances in the AL, but played the 4th highest number of innings, putting him dead last in chances per inning.  His ratio was 0.424 chances per inning; the league average was .505. 

That could mean a) he simply didn’t have a lot of balls hit to him this year or b) he isn’t athletic enough to reach the same number of balls as a normal SS would.  All you had to do was open your eyes this year to see that option b was more realistic.  What I saw was an aging player who was slower, less agile, covered less ground, and had a weaker arm than other shortstops.

Yet, because he plays in New York, because he looks good when he makes a jumping spin throw from the hole, and most of all because he’s Derek Jeter, more deserving candidates (Alexei Ramirez, Elvis Andrus, etc.) have to wait.

Good job voters, good job.

Where Will They Sign?

I’m a sucker for any fantasy game on MLB.com. 

I have been playing Beat the Streak, Beat the Streak HR Edition, and Survivor for the past three or four years.  So when the new Free Agent Frenzy game was released last week, I jumped in instantly.

It has been well documented on this site how terrible I am at baseball predictions, so the odds of me winning the grand prize aren’t slim-to-none.  They’re just none.

But other than being fun and killing a few minutes of my work day, it also gave me an idea for a blog post.  Where will 12 key free agents sign this offseason? 

Keep in mind the 12 players listed below were chosen by MLB.com, not me.  Scott Downs, Jason Frasor, and John Buck were not left out on purpose.

The No-Brainer Division

Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter

2010: New York Yankees, 2011: New York Yankees

Yes I’ve heard the rumours that the Jeter re-signing process will be longer and more difficult than expected.  But come on – is there actually any chance the Yankees let two icons, two of the most recognized Yankees in franchise history, end their careers elsewhere?  Not a chance.

The Logical Train of Thought Division

Carl Crawford

2010: Rays, 2011: Angels

Logic: The Angels have money, they missed the playoffs last year for the first time since 2006, and they want to be aggressive this offseason.  Torii Hunter has already been pushing for Crawford, and seeing how fragile Crawford looked after being heckled in Toronto last year, I think he is afraid of the traditional big East-coast markets.

Adrian Beltre

2010: Red Sox, 2011: Angels

Logic: See the first sentence about Crawford.  Then consider this: incumbent 3B Brandon Wood hit .146 last year with a .382 OPS in over 200 AB.  He has a career average of .169 in parts of four seasons with LA.  Enough said.

Jayson Werth

2010: Phillies, 2011: Red Sox

Logic: Boston missed the playoffs last year, for the first time since 2006.  Boston needs to make a splash to stay close to the Yankees.  Boston doesn’t have a power hitting outfielder with a strong arm.  Should be obvious.

Cliff Lee

2010: Mariners/Rangers, 2011: Yankees

Logic: As much as every baseball fan across North America is pleading with Cliff Lee to not sign with New York, it’s obvious he’s going to.  If he wanted to stay in Texas he would have re-signed before free agency.  When somebody says “I’ve earned the right to explore the open market” they are all about money.  See: Sabathia, CC; Burnett, A.J.; Teixeira, Mark.  All signed with the Yanks.  So will Lee.

Carl Pavano

2010: Twins, 2011: Twins

Logic: He has a bad reputation, he is an aging starter, and the last time he had a good year he robbed the Yankees of $39 million.  Nobody will reach out to sign this guy, so why bother testing the market?  He pitched well for the Twins last year, and he should stay there in 2011.

Victor Martinez

2010: Red Sox, 2011: Tigers

Logic: Seems to have fallen out of favour in Boston.  Detroit’s catcher is a 23-year old kid named Alex Avila who hit .228 last year.  They need a catcher, want to make a big free agent splash, and have a lot of money coming off the books.

The “I Have Absolutely No Idea” Division

Adam Dunn

2010: Nationals, 2011: A’s

No Idea: Dunn loves the National League and is fighting the inevitable by not wanting to DH.  NL teams don’t seem too enamored with Dunn, and AL teams want him to DH.  Something’s gotta give.  Usually in these kinds of spots a team that nobody expects swoops in and signs the player.  One team that seems to do that a lot? Oakland.

Paul Konerko

2010: White Sox, 2011: Rangers

No Idea: I haven’t heard a lot about Konerko thus far.  But he is coming off a monster year (.312 avg, .977 OPS, 39 HR, 111 RBI) and unlike Jim Thome can still play the field.  There’s a chance he stays in Chicago, but Texas is stacked everywhere but 1B, and if they don’t get Lee they have cash to burn.

Rafael Soriano

2010: Rays, 2011: White Sox

No Idea: I chose the White Sox by making a variety of assumptions.

1. He will stay in the AL (Cut – all NL teams)

2. He wants to play for a contender (Cut – Orioles, Jays, Royals, Indians, TIgers, Mariners, A’s)

Of the remaining teams, he’s too expensive for the Rays, and the other teams have established closers already (NY = Rivera, Bos = Papelbon, Det = Valverde, Min = Nathan, Angels = Rodney, Rangers = Feliz).  Chicago has Jenks, but after last season they don’t look like they trust him.

Jorge De La Rosa

2010: Rockies, 2011: Rangers

No Idea: The Good – he’s young, left-handed, his WHIP has been improving, and he’s a big strikeout pitcher (K/9 > 8.4 3 straight years).  The Bad – he’s wildly inconsistent, only averages about 6 inning per start, walks a lot of batters, has never had an ERA below 4.20, and is a .500 pitcher.  The Ugly – he will likely want a lucrative 5-year deal.  But if Texas loses Lee, this will be their guy.

This Guy Cleans Up Well…

Bautista and Votto with Hank Aaron (daylife.com)

So there I was, watching Game 4 of the World Series last night, and lo and behold, who should appear on my TV screen?  None other than a dapper looking Jose Bautista.

The Jays slugger was presented with the 2010 Hank Aaron Award in Texas, after being recognized as the top hitter in the American League by fans and media.

Bautista became the second Blue Jay to win the award in its 12 year history, joining Carlos Delgado in 2000.

Wearing a fancy suit, black shirt, and a few days stubble on his face, Bautista looked like he would rather be dressed in a dirty uniform, playing in the World Series.  

Who knows?  The Jays might only be a few offseason acquisitions away from making that a reality.

One thing’s for certain – considering he hit 54 home runs with a sports hernia last year, there is a very good chance that this isn’t the last we see of Bautista winning awards.

But hopefully next year he’ll be accepting it in a Blue Jays uniform instead of a designer suit.

The Grandaddy of ‘Em All

For those who have read my prediction columns throughout the summer, you know what to expect – crap.

While I did manage to successfully predict seven of the eight playoff teams, my stat and trade guesses were way off.

Then, I only hit 50% of my Division Series picks.

Then, I decided to skip the LCS matchups altogether.  Good thing too, because I don’t think the Yankees and Phillies are still alive…

But, I can’t resist taking one more crack at the can.  I have to take a shot at the World Series.

So…here goes….

Pitching – Starters

Hard to say who has the better 1-2 punch.  San Francisco has Lincecum and Cain – a combined 2 – 1, 2.11 ERA in the NLCS.  Texas has Lee and Lewis – a combined 3 -0, 1.25 ERA in the ALCS.  The #3 guys – Sanchez for SF and Wilson for TEX – are both left handed, and both have the ability to dominate if they are on.  Both teams have rookies or near-rookies (Madison Bumgarner and Tommy Hunter) as the fourth man.  Pretty much a dead heat, if not for the fact that Cliff Lee is a robot and does not feel pressure, does not sweat, and does not bleed.

Edge – Rangers

Pitching – Bullpen

Texas has the sexier closer in Neftali Feliz, but San Francisco has Brian “The Beard” Wilson, who is just as dependable.  It’s the other guys who give the edge to SF.  Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo, and Santiago Casilla are all strikeout machines and impose more fear than the average (but admittedly effective) Darren Oliver and Darren O’Day.  Plus the Giants have played so many close games in the playoffs that their bullpen is battle tested.

Edge – Giants

Offense

Texas is powered by the long ball.  Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz combined for 6 against NY, and they also boast Vladimir Guerrero, Michael Young, Bengie Molina, and David Murphy who can all go deep.  Plus they have incredible team speed and aggressiveness, lead by Elvis Andrus.  They swiped 9 bags against the Yanks.  San Francisco stole only one base against the Phillies, and aside from NLCS MVP Cody Ross, hit only one HR (Ross had three).  They are a grinding team.  Texas has more ways to beat you.

Edge – Rangers

Defense

Both teams have made a similar number of errors in the postseason (Texas 7 – SF 6, though Texas has played one more game).  Both teams are stocked full of solid defenders, though the Rangers likely have an edge with Hamilton and Cruz in the OF and Andrus at SS.  The big question mark will be in Games 1, 2, 6, and 7 when Vladimir Guerrero will play RF.  He used to be a Gold Glover…”used to be” being the key phrase.

Edge – Even

Intangibles

Texas had never won a playoff series before this year, so they have obviously never won a World Series.  The Giants have never won a World Series in San Francisco, their last championship coming when they played in New York at the Polo Grounds.  The Giants will want to win one for Aubrey Huff, a man who played 1,479 regular season games before finally making his playoff debut this year.  But the Rangers will want to win one for Michael Young, a man who played 1,508 regular season games before finally making his playoff debut this year.

Edge – Even

The Winner

I would like to answer “I have no idea”, but I don’t think I can get away with that.  The teams match up incredibly even in almost every aspect of the game that it’s almost too tough to call.  You would be an idiot to bet against two-time defending Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, but I think you’d be a bigger idiot to bet against playoff mastermind Cliff Lee.  I know he lost the World Series last year, so it is possible to beat a Cliff Lee lead team, but I think he uses that as motivation.

Rangers in 7

BBA Announces Connie Mack Award Winners

Earlier this week I posted my ballot for  the year end BBA awards.  The votes have been tallied for the first award, and below is a copy of the press release outlining the winner of the Connie Mack Award for Manager of the Year.  Apparently I was the only one who liked Charlie Manuel…

 

WASHINGTON, BLACK WIN CONNIE MACK AWARD

Ron Washington of the Texas Rangers and Bud Black of the San Diego Padres were named winners of the Connie Mack Award by the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, noting them as the best managers in their respective leagues for 2010.

Washington, who weathered a drug controversy in spring training, led Texas to their fifth divisional title since 1994 and their first since 1999. While the voting was based on his regular season accomplishments, Washington also guided his team to their first ever postseason series victory when they eliminated the Tampa Bay Rays in five games in the American League Divisional Series.

Washington received ten first place votes in route to accumulating 74 total points. He edged out Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who received 67 points.

In the National League, Black’s guidance of a Padres team almost universally expected to finish last to first place most of the summer helped him edge Dusty Baker of the Cincinnati Reds by the slimmest of margins. The fact that the Padres fell just short of the playoffs while the Reds won the NL Central helped lead to the tight race. Black garnered nine first place selections and 53 total points to Baker’s seven first place nods and 51 total points.

The complete voting results are as follows (first place votes in parenthesis):

American League

Ron Washington, Texas (10) 74

Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota (7) 67

Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay (4) 35

Terry Francona, Boston (3) 20

Cito Gaston, Toronto 9

Buck Showalter, Baltimore 9

Joe Girardi, New York 2

National League

Bud Black, San Diego (9) 53

Dusty Baker, Cincinnati (7) 51

Bobby Cox, Atlanta (2) 33

Bruce Bochy, San Francisco (3) 29

Charlie Manuel, Philadelphia (1) 27

Brad Mills, Houston 3

Mike Quade, Chicago 2

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance was formed in the fall of 2009 to encourage cooperation and collaboration between baseball bloggers of all major league teams as well as those that follow baseball more generally. As of this writing, the organization consists of 224 blogs spanning all 30 major league squads as well as general baseball writing.

The BBA is organized under a similar structure as the Baseball Writers of America, where blogs that follow the same team are combined into “chapters” and only two votes from the chapter on an award are counted. The blog chapters that are focused on general baseball were allowed two votes as well, which they could use both on the same league or split between the two leagues.

Chapters generally followed one of two methods when casting their ballot. Either representatives of the chapter were given the ballots for voting or a “group ballot” was posted, accounting for both of their votes.

Ballots are posted on the respective blogs and tabulated on a 5-3-1 point scale for first, second and third. In the interest of transparency, links are given below for the ballots. Chapter affiliation is in parenthesis. Those chapters that decided on the group method are noted with an asterisk.

American League

Camden Crazies (Baltimore)*

Boston Red Thoughts (Boston)*

Toeing The Rubber (Boston)*

The Tribe Daily (Cleveland)*

Motor City Bengals (Detroit)

Switch Hitting Pitchers (Detroit)

One Royal Way (Kansas City)

Seth Speaks (Minnesota)

Bronx Baseball Daily (New York)*

Contract Year (Oakland)

Jeff’s Mariners Fan Blog (Seattle)

Rise of the Rays (Tampa Bay)

Baseball Is My Boyfriend (Texas)*

The Blue Jay Hunter (Toronto)

500 Level Fan (Toronto)

Advanced Fantasy Baseball (Fantasy)*

Misc. Baseball (History)*

Victoria Seals Baseball Blog (Other)*

Blogging From The Bleachers (General)*

National League

Prose and Ivy (Chicago)*

Cincinnati Reds Blog (Cincinnati)

Astros County (Houston)

Feeling Dodger Blue (Los Angeles)

Bernie’s Crew (Milwaukee)*

Brewers Bar (Milwaukee)*

The Eddie Kranepool Society (New York)*

Dugger’s Corner (Philadelphia)

Where Have You Gone, Andy Van Slyke? (Pittsburgh)*

i70 Baseball (St. Louis)

The Outfield Ivy (St. Louis)

Friar Forecast (San Diego)*

Advanced Fantasy Baseball (Fantasy)*

Misc. Baseball (History)*

Victoria Seals Baseball Blog (Other)*

Blogging From The Bleachers (General)*

Ron Kaplan’s Baseball Bookshelf (Miscellaneous)*

Prior Winners

2009: Mike Scioscia, Los Angeles of Anaheim; Jim Tracy, Colorado

The official website of the BBA is located at www.baseballbloggersalliance.com. The BBA can be found on Twitter by the handle @baseballblogs and by the hashmark #bbba. Members of the BBA may be heard at Blog Talk Radio every Tuesday night with their call-in show, BBA Baseball Talk, which may also be downloaded as a podcast from iTunes. For more information, contact Daniel Shoptaw at founder@baseballbloggersalliance.com.

500 Level Fan’s Baseball Bloggers Alliance Awards Ballot

With the regular season over, it’s time to vote on the winners of the major baseball awards.  This year, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA) has released five major awards to recognize the top manager, rookie, reliever, pitcher, and most valuable player in each league.

Without futher ado, here is my ballot for who should win each, along with two honourable mentions in each category.

Connie Mack Award (Manager of the Year)

American League – Ron Washington, Texas Rangers

In 2009 the Rangers finished 87-74, but nine back of the Angels in the AL West.  After Washington was nearly fired in the off-season for having a positive cocaine test made public, he sought (and received) forgiveness, then went out and lead his team to 90 wins and a western division title.  He made several big decisions such as installing a rookie as his closer (Neftali Feliz), managing a patchwork rotation consisting of a former Japanese league player (Colby Lewis), a converted reliever (C.J. Wilson), and a broken Canadian (Rich Harden), and juggled his lineup to survive most of September without two All-Stars (Josh Hamilton, Elvis Andrus).

Honourable Mention – Cito Gaston (Blue Jays), Ron Gardenhire (Twins)

National League – Charlie Manuel, Philadelphia Phillies

I know many might criticize this pick, because the Phillies were supposed to be the best team in the league, and ended up being the best team in the league.  It is the old Cito Gaston conundrum from the early ’90’s, where “anybody can manage that team”.  But I’m not convinced the Phillies win without Manuel.  Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Placido Polanco were hurt much of the year.  Raul Ibanez and Shane Victorino had down years compared to ’09.  And outside of Halladay and Hamels, the rotation was below average.  Yes, the late season acquisition of Oswalt was huge, and yes the team became healthy in September.  But Manuel kept them close to the NL East lead before that happened, and he deserves credit.

Honourable Mention – Bud Black (Padres), Bobby Cox (Braves)

Willie Mays Award (Rookie of the Year)

American League – Neftali Feliz, Texas Rangers

Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch of the Tigers both had great years, but I’ll take Feliz.  A 22-year old playing the most pressure packed position in baseball for a playoff contender?  With stats like this – 40 saves, 2.73 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 71 strikeouts and 18 walks in 69.1 IP?  No-brainer.  

Honourable Mention – Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch (Tigers)

National League – Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants

Two deserving candidates for this award: Jason Heyward of the Braves and Posey.  Their numbers are very, very similar:

Heyward – .277 avg, .849 OPS, 18 HR, 72 RBI

Posey – .305 avg, .862 OPS, 18 HR, 67 RBI

Plus they both lead their teams to playoff births.  But Posey takes it because a) he put up those numbers in fewer games, b) he played catcher, a much more difficult position, and c) before he arrived SF was 25-22, in third place.  They went 67 – 48 the rest of the way to win the division.

Honourable Mention – Jason Heyward (Braves), Jamie Garcia (Cardinals)

Goose Gossage Award (Top Reliever)

American League – Rafael Soriano, Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay’s weak spot in 2009 was the bullpen, but one single free-agent signing transformed that weakness into a major strength.  Soriano was installed as the Rays closer, and dominated.  He lead the AL in saves with 45, had an ERA of 1.73, a 0.80 WHIP, and 57 strikeouts to only 14 walks.  He is one of the major reasons the Rays are AL East champions for the second time in three years.

Honourable Mention – Joakim Soria (Royals), Neftali Feliz (Rangers)

National League – Brian Wilson, San Francisco Giants

It seems like such a cop out to give the Top Reliever award in each league to the man with the most saves, but I can’t find a way to not give it to Wilson.  He lead the NL in saves with 48.  He had a better ERA (1.81) and a better WHIP (1.18) than Heath Bell and Carlos Marmol, my other top choices.  Marmol had more strikeouts (138 – 93), but he also walked twice as many batters.  Plus Wilson pitched many more pressure packed ninth innings in the heat of a pennant race.  Decision made.

Honourable Mention – Heath Bell (Padres), Carlos Marmol (Cubs)

Walter Johnson Award (Cy Young)

American League – Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners

To me this is a no-brainer.  My top-three candidates (CC Sabathia, David Price, and Hernandez) all had terrific years, but there is only one winner here.  Despite having a record of only 13-12, he was the best pitcher by far:  

ERA – Felix: 2.27, Price: 2.72, CC: 3.18

WHIP – Felix: 1.057, CC: 1.191, Price: 1.193

IP – Felix: 249.2, CC: 237.2, Price: 208.2

Strikeouts – Felix: 232, CC: 197, Price: 188

ERA+ (taking into account park impact) – Felix: 174, Price: 145, CC: 134

Complete Games – Felix: 6, CC and Price: 2

I could go on.  The fact that he managed to win 13 games for a Mariners team that averaged only 3.10 runs per game for him is nothing short of miraculous.

Honourable Mention – CC Sabathia (Yankees), David Price (Rays)

National League – Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies

A number of good pitchers this year, but so many of them faded at the end.  Chris Carpenter had an ERA of 4.78 in September.  Adam Wainwright’s was 3.09 – good but his highest monthly ERA by over half a run.  Ubaldo Jimenez was far worse after his enormous start.  Josh Johnson was shut down for the season.  Roy Halladay got stronger as the innings went on, and ended leading the NL in wins (21), complete games (9), shutouts (4), innings pitched (250.2), and K:BB (7.30).  He also finished with a 2.44 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and a perfect game.  Not bad.

Honourable Mention – Adam Wainwright (Cardinals), Ubaldo Jimenez (Rockies)

Stan Musial Award (MVP)

American League – Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers

To me, MVP means the most valuable player to his team, not the player who had the best season.  It doesn’t matter if you play for the best team in the league or the worst.  My measuring stick for this award is a hypothetical one – if the player in question was to be removed from his team, what would happen?  That’s why you won’t see Robinson Cano on my list.  Was he good?  Yes.  But take him away, and all the Yankees have left is Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Nick Swisher, Mariano Rivera, CC Sabathia, etc. 

But take away Josh Hamilton, do the Texas Rangers still win the AL West?  Maybe, maybe not.  But they would be a far worse ball club.  His stats (.359 avg, 1.044 OPS, 32 HR, 100 RBI) are outstanding, but it’s what his team would be without him that is more telling.  Same story for Jose Bautista with the Jays and Miguel Cabrera in Detroit.  They almost single-handedly lifted their teams to higher heights.  But to me, Hamilton edges out Bautista for two reasons: 1) he lead him in every ratio category, (average – by a mile, OBP, SLUG, OPS) and 2) the Rangers without Hamilton don’t make the playoffs.  The Jays without Bautista are 10 games worse, but still a fourth place team.

Honourable Mention – Jose Bautista (Blue Jays), Miguel Cabrera (Tigers)

National League – Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds

Take away Pujols from the Cardinals and you still have Matt Holliday and a two-headed beast of a pitching rotation (Carpenter, Wainwright).  Take away Carlos Gonzalez from the Rockies and you still have Troy Tulowitzki, and vice-versa.  Take Joey Votto from the Reds and you have Brandon Phillips, Scott Rolen, and a bunch of rookie pitchers.  Good?  Sure.  NL Central Champions?  Not a chance.  It also doesn’t hurt that Votto nearly won the triple crown (.324 average, 37 HR, 113 RBI) and lead the NL in OBP (.424), SLUG (.600) and OPS (1.024)

Honourable Mention – Albert Pujols (Cardinals), Carlos Gonzalez (Rockies)

Simply Amazing

There really isn’t much to say about last night’s performance by Doc.

I know this is supposed to a Blue Jays blog, but how can you not be impressed?

I missed the first inning, but was home to see every other pitch that Halladay threw – and all of them were amazing. 

It’s not often that you see a pitcher in complete control as Halladay was.  I can honestly say that I was shocked when he walked Jay Bruce with two outs in the fifth.  He didn’t miss his spots all night. 

To me the most incredible thing about the no-hitter was this: he was never challenged.  In most no-hit bids, there is always one amazing play that keeps the bid intact.  Sometimes there are multiple plays.  Off the top of my head I remember Mark Buehrle’s gem last year with DeWayne Wise making an absurd catch to clinch it.  Or Vernon Wells crashing against the fence to preserve Brandon Morrow’s effort this year in Toronto.

But that didn’t happen last night.  Sure Travis Wood hit a line drive to the outfield, but Jayson Werth didn’t even have to move.  From my point of view, only four balls made the outfield last night – three fly outs and the lone liner to Werth.  Halladay struck out eight, induced 12 ground balls, and three pop outs.  It was dominance unlike I have ever seen before.

Scott Rolen had the quote of the night when he said “I wonder how many times I would have struck out if I kept going out there?”  Very accurate, because I truly believe Halladay could have gone 14 or 15 innings of no-hit ball.  That’s how flawless he was.

I did not get a chance to see Doc’s perfect game earlier in the year, but it’s hard to imagine him throwing any better than last night.

I know there are a few people in Toronto who want to see him fail, who feel betrayed by him leaving for Philly.

But I think I speak for the vast majority of Jays fans when I say I’m proud of him.  Sure he may technically be the “enemy” now, but it’s impossible to root against a guy who gave everything he had to this team and this city.

Congratulations Roy.  Welcome to Doctober.